Steamtalks via Flickr
Customers queue up outside Apple's flagship Fifth Avenue store in New York City on July 5, 2008, prior to the release of the iPhone 3G.

For years, observers have noted the similarities between Apple, Inc. and religious cults. Origin myth? Check. Faithful masses? Just walk by an Apple store when the iPad Mini goes on sale later this week.

“A stranger observing one of the launches could probably be forgiven for thinking they had stumbled into a religious revival meeting,” anthropologist Kirsten Bell, told Tech News Daily this past week. Bell reviewed several Apple product launch videos for Tech News prior to the iPad Mini launch event last week.

Product launches are “littered with sacred symbols, especially the iconic Apple sign itself,” says Bell, a research associate at the University of British Columbia. During these events, Apple leadership “addresses the audience to reawaken and renew their faith in the core message and tenets of the brand/religion. Like many sacred ceremonies, the Apple product launch cannot be broadcast live. The scribes/tech journalists act as witness, testifying to the wonders they behold.”

A BBC documentary series that aired last year cited a scientific study that seems to confirm this link. In the study, neuroscientists analyzed the brain activity of an Apple devotee and discovered that Apple stimulates “the same parts of the brain as religious imagery does in people of faith.”

In one of the earliest papers studying the parallels between Apple fans and religious adherents, sociologist Pui-Yan Lam quoted an Apple follower saying, “For me, the Mac was the closest thing to religion I could deal with.” Lam’s study examines Apple loyalists in the context of various religious themes, including the search for meaning, a community of persecuted believers and the battle between good and evil.

Speaking of the iconic Apple logo, Christianity Today cites an Interfax news agency report which says that Orthodox Christians in Russia have begun removing the bitten apple from Apple products and replacing it with a cross. Activists consider the logo, with its connotations of original sin, to be insulting.

David Ward is a writer living in Salt Lake City. Contact him at [email protected].